Indian Camp

A piece of writing that I’d like to emulate is a short story called “Indian Camp,” By Ernest Hemingway. Not only is Hemingway brilliant– his work is intellectually and artistically engaging because she uses short sentences while still effectively describing a scene. He sets the scene seamlessly, without a forced descriptive section. The tone of the piece is dark and foggy, but surprisingly not eerie, and lacks an expected “Poe” quality.

The Story goes like this: A doctor is called to help an Indian woman, who has been in painful labor, deliver a baby. The doctor was forced to perform a C-section, and the doctor’s son witnessed this entire ordeal as he came along to help his father. In the midst of this traumatic story, the woman’s husband commit suicide by slitting his own throat. And throughout, Hemingway uses no striking diction to get across the chaos of the situation, but for some reason, you understand the situation, and are content with the “to-the-point” story-telling.

The twist in this story is that the pain, and gore did not come from the woman in pain and distress, but rather the husband, who goes silently. This is the first time that Nick, the doctor’s son is exposed to both birth and suicide—a strong juxtaposition. And, I’d hate to say that this is a classic “rite of passage” story, because it’s not: it’s much more. This is not just a riveting story of initiation; this is a social commentary. The Indian woman has faced sexism and racism, but in the face of her suffering, her husband cannot endure. She has been the stronger subject, and her husband has been the “weak.” Hemingway seems to believe that men who commit suicide are weak (another sexist ideology). In this piece the woman is the hero. And though you feel sadness for her husband’s helplessness, you can’t help but to feel like she was the partner who endured more lifelong pain, as well as temporary, but no less excruciating, labor pain. And, now she is a widow.

In addition, we see subtle changes in the way Hemingway discusses Nick Adams. In the beginning, Nick is close to his father, and at the end he sits further away from him, on the opposite side of the boat. It seems Nick has matured, somehow.

However, the most interesting part of the story is not, for me, the rhetoric. But, it’s that both Hemingway and his father committed suicide. Perhaps my rhetorical analysis of this story is clouded by the circumstantial irony. But, then I wondered, does it really matter?






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